Freedom Of and From Religion

by | Apr 14, 2015

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."


Religious oppression was one reason many of our ancestors came to America. They wanted to escape rulers who demanded that everyone worship their way. In Ireland, Catholics couldn’t vote or own a gun.

I assumed that because many of America’s founders came here to escape such repression, they were eager to allow religious freedom in America. After all, the very First Amendment in the Bill of Rights says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

But I was wrong. On my TV show this week, Chapman University economist Larry Iannaccone explains that many American settlers were just as tyrannical about insisting that everyone follow their religion: “In the Northeast, it was Puritanism or Calvinism. In New York and Virginia, Anglicanism, the Church of England. Elsewhere, it was Catholicism.”

Only when colonists tried to form a nation, and met with others who practiced different religions (or none, like Thomas Jefferson), did they put freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights.

So what does that mean today? President Obama tells religious people that he supports “the right to practice our faith how we choose.”

But Obamacare functionaries ordered Christian groups to fund employees’ purchase of birth control and the morning-after abortion pill. Some religious people believe both pills are a form of murder. Would their president force them to pay for what they consider murder? You betcha.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, sued, and the Supremes ruled that some faith-based corporations can get an exemption from Obamacare. But it was a pathetically narrow victory, applying only to small, privately-held companies, and they still must hire lawyers to beg for an exemption. Non-profits and bigger groups such as Notre Dame still must fund what they consider to be murder.

Leftists still assailed the court for granting even this tiny exemption. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she “can’t believe we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care.”

Harry Reid said, “If the Supreme Court will not protect women’s access to health care, then Democrats will.”

What utter nonsense! No one was “denied access” to anything. Anyone with a prescription can buy birth control pills at Wal-Mart for $9. Are leftists so in love with big government that they think government not funding something is akin to banning it? Apparently they do.

Hobby Lobby’s owners were represented in court by a group called the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Becket’s director, Kristina Arriaga, says Hobby Lobby isn’t stingy or cruel: “The Green family pays twice the minimum wage, closes on Sundays, gives very generous benefits to their employees, and they did not object to 16 out of the 20 drugs (for which coverage was mandated).”

I say it shouldn’t matter whether the Green family is good to its employees. No one is forced to work for them or any company. If business owners don’t want to fund birth control, alcohol rehab, haircuts or anything, that should be their right.

They created the company (or paid to buy it), and as long as they don’t collude with competitors, they should be allowed to impose whatever rules they want. Employees aren’t trapped. Anyone can quit. Companies that give more generous benefits will attract better employees. That competition protects workers better than government mandates ever will.

Letting government make so many one-size-fits-all decisions creates new problems. Iannaccone argues that religion is more vibrant in the U.S. because the American government has mostly left religion alone. In Europe, governments subsidized religion or set the rules. The state promised protection for all but ended up becoming an enforcer of orthodoxy. That made religion more homogeneous and less appealing. Forty percent of Americans say they go to church every week. In England and France, only 10 percent do. In Denmark, only 3 percent attend.

“Religion is a market phenomenon like other ones,” Iannaccone says, “and when you make the government the arbiter, the funder, (religion) operates like a typical lazy monopoly. Incentives are lost. The clergy get focused on pleasing politicians rather than the people.”

Government ought to leave us alone so we can do as we please, in collaboration with whatever God we believe in.

John Stossel is author of No They Can't! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed. For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.


  1. While I essentially agree with the points that you make, I thought you were going in a different direction with your post based on your title. My basic comment would be, why is it that people get to complain about government rules and regulations based on their religion? Why do you need to be a religious person to be indignant about being regulated to death and told what to offer for health care, etc. None of us should have to stand for this infringement on our individual rights, not just people who have religious objections. Otherwise, I agree with your comments except for one: you say companies should be able to impose any rules they want “as long as they don’t collude with competitors” (this, of course, in the context that a company can’t force you to do anything since you can seek employment elsewhere). What does this mean? If you truly understand individual rights, companies should be able to “collude” with other companies, individuals, etc. (but not with the government, as the government should be hands off – the government necessarily is an instrument of force; whereas other companies and individuals, as you so correctly point out, cannot force you to do anything). This is one of the basic misunderstandings of the free market system – just as anyone, being an individual, can engage in friendships and other relationships, companies (which are just a collection of individuals) should be able to do the same. People will scream monopoly, but once again, any company or group of companies can’t FORCE you to do anything – only companies backed by the force of government are real monopolies. Any company or group of companies trying to get monopoly power in a free market in order to overcharge customers will be met with competition. There have been companies that have dominated their field without the help of government, but it is because they’ve had good products at good prices. Of course, many of these successful companies are still met with government regulations and so-called anti-trust violations based on the fact that they are successful.

  2. Once again, John, you offer a very poignant comment.
    I would, however, simply like to go off on a bit of a tangent and add one thing. Namely, does not the concept of “freedom of conscience” preclude the state from taking any notice to the personal reasons why any given individual may have a conscientious objection to anything, be it birth control, homosexuality or even caffeine? The reasons may be religious, may be secular, may be simply practical from the point of view of the individual in question. To suggest that if one’s reasons to oppose something are religious that he then has a right to his opinion, but if his reasons are more mundane then he does not have a right to his opinion is, I find, blatantly contrary to freedom of conscience. I know that both you and Mr. Stossel understand this; I am just surprised that the issue is being addressed at governmental levels in terms of religion or any other reason *why* someone may have an objection as being salient.

    This is the same problem I have with the idea of “hate crimes”. Freedom of conscience cannot coexist under a system where one’s mere thoughts determine how severe a crime is. Is it slightly less reprehensible to batter a man to steal his money than it is to batter a man for his colour? Or should the lesson rather be that the law does not care what you think or feel, it is your behaviour that matters? If you don’t like someone, stay away from him. Full stop.

    Two different issues, perhaps, but closely related. There can be no thought-crime in a free society.

  3. I agree with you 100% and thank you for expanding on what I wrote. Hate crimes are actually an infringement of freedom of thought! Only actions really matter as that is the only way you can violate others’ rights – not thoughts. Of course, in some instances, words (spoken and written) can do the same as actions, for example, when you slander or libel someone, or yell fire in a packed theater when there is no fire and causing injury. However, I digress. I only have one little quibble with what you said – I wouldn’t characterize thoughts other than religious as being more mundane…..but I know you didn’t mean it that way. Many times we are writing off the top of the head in these things, not totally thinking everything out word for word.

  4. “mundane” meaning “worldly”. I pick my words carefully. Maybe not everyone else uses the word correctly. ;0)
    (I got in trouble here long ago for using the word “vulgar” in a literal sense, i.e., “common”. Some people thought I was being insulting.)

  5. Thanks for educating me. For some reason, I always associated a negative connotation with that word – maybe I got it via my religious upbringing.

  6. “Hate crimes are actually an infringement of freedom of thought.”
    If the six million innocent Jews who were heinously and maliciously murdered in a plethora amount of barbaric ways that completely blow the mind of any semi decent and compassionate human being could possibly speak today and respond to your opening argument, I wonder how they would respond to that truly outrageous statement of yours!!! Their only “crime” was being born Jewish!! How in tarnation did they infringe on others?! THEY were thrown into Ghettos of deplorable conditions way before they were herded into train cattle cars to be slaughtered in the most brutal and demonic ways imaginable!!!

    The innocent, precious babies thrown into the air and shot for “sport”, who did they infringe on?!

    Kindly take a moment to think before you post something so thoughtless and ludicrous!!!

  7. I think you are misinterpreting his statement.

    The definition of a hate crime is only based upon someone’s opinion. IT is the liberal attempt to control freedom of conscience and thought. They are attempting to establish “hate speech” as a crime now.

    The crime is the action itself. Does the motive actually matter? Murdered because of bigotry, political expedience, profit, or any other reason…… are the same thing. Murdered. EVIL is the cause. As long as no action is taken….the opinion doesn’t matter.

  8. You totally misunderstand what I said. A crime is a crime, murder is murder. What happened to the Jews is an atrocity. I wasn’t talking about “crime” on that level, which is genocide – I was talking about crime in the USA on a one-on-one basis. We certainly can discuss what the motivations are on any crime, but if someone kills you, you are dead whether they did it out of some sort of hatred for what you are, such as religious hatred, hatred for being gay, or for being a certain race – I guess these are the three main categories of hate crimes off the top of my head. What if they murder you because they don’t like your ideas, or they just do it for fun because they want to kill someone and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or they wanted to steal your money and didn’t want to leave you alive as a witness. You are still dead and the murderer shouldn’t be given any less of a sentence because his crime didn’t fall in a certain “hate crime” category. In terms of justice, what the motivation was is irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are saying that the ideas that motivate hate crime are evil, I would agree; but for the reasons of justice, should not be considered. To put it another way: if someone murdered a loved one of yours and it can be proven they didn’t do it under one of the hate crime categories, should they be given a lesser sentence?

  9. Thanks for your clarification. According to all that I have read as well as numerous conversations with my neighbor who is a cop, and my sister’s friend who is one, hate crimes are worse. That is crystal clear!!!

    This is because the sheer virulent, demonic, and crazed hatred, causes the planning and execution of the act to be way more deplorable and nefarious. It was also planned with tremendous malice aforethought, with the intention to inflict the most terrible pain on the victims or victim! There is simply no comparison!!!

  10. You have some valid points. But you might want to see my response to his clarification. ;)

  11. There are other crimes besides “hate” crimes that could fit that same description. I am not saying that the ideas behind hate crimes aren’t reprehensible, but if someone murders you, you are dead no matter what they are thinking. For the government to have a special category for hate crimes means they are saying you cannot think a certain way. While the ideas are reprehensible, it is the crime that violates the rights of another person. And ideas can be fought with better ideas. If someone holds a reprehensible idea but doesn’t act on it, no crime has been committed. Do you see the difference? A crime is a crime and can be judged in and of itself. An idea is an idea and can be judged in and of itself.

  12. Ah, what to do? People who oppose us are one thing, but what can we do when people are so wound up on their own hobby horses that they cannot even see that we are agreeing with them. Fellow travellers can be more of a headache than those who choose to part ways.

    So far the responses to Proud Conservative Mom have seemed apologetic and conciliatory. Frankly, I think she is in the wrong place. This was actually a discussion about having a right to disagree with someone else regarding same-sex marriages and whether only religious people should be entitled to their own opinion. Suddenly we have a laundry list of many of the evils suffered by the Jews along with the typical and banal rhetorical distractions one finds in mainstream media posing as real debate.

    Not to say that Proud Conservative Mom is a troll; I don’t think so at all. However, in spite of her passion, her posts are lowering the tone of this discussion. I suggest we not take the bait.

  13. Yes, it took me a while, but I finally got there with her last post.

  14. You are dead wrong! Hitler, for example, was a very dynamic speaker. His words, alone, inspired armies of people to act in a frenzied, murderous rage that induced them to committ mass genocide in the most barbaric ways possible!

    From when radical Muslims “raise” their children, they indoctrinate them with shows like “Sesame Street”, but with a sinister and demonic theme. It speaks about hating and killing Jews in horrific ways and talks up committing jihad as the most praiseworthy deed one can do!

    People like you scare me to pieces! You are so damn naive and refuse to comprehend and/or will not comprehend that words can kill —- in a plethora of vicious ways!! It is the first step to committing evil atrocities of epic proportions! Such words act as a poison on a society that spreads for miles in a quick and expeditious manner; like a rampant and out of control forest fire!!!

    Fools like you would (and have in the past sat on the sidelines). You would commend this ” free speech ” as a RIGHT, instead of justifiably viewing it as deadly, even more so as someone screaming “fire” in a crowded theater!

    You would have not spoken up in Nazi Germany too, and rationalized sadistic and brutally barbaric words of evil that was the first step for a successful Holocaust agenda!

    People like yourself make ” Never again ” into a pipe filled dream!

  15. You both cannot see the forest from the trees!

    I would love an honest and intelligent rebuttal to what I posted a few minutes ago. There is just cause why the Hate Crime Unit agrees with me.

    Freedom of speech is not absolute when it induces murder!! The Supreme Court ruled on this a long time ago successfully and righteously. But I’m surely the ” crazy one! “. FYI, on a much smaller scale gays were killed too in the Holocaust and gypsies.

  16. Read my last two postings. If you still think I am so “off base”, there is nothing more to say.

    It has nothing to do with taking any bait!!!

  17. P.S., it just hit me that we went full circle. You were trying to explore the possibility of morality existing without the Almighty G-d and His Divine Words. You (and many others like yourself), are proof positive beyond a scintilla of a shadow of any reasonable doubt, that it is completely and totally impossible! Man, by himself, can never judge arbitrarily what is moral or not, right from wrong, etc., etc.
    I thank you for your postings. There are a few individuals that will positively be greatly appreciative of receiving copies of our exchange in full!

  18. Sorry, that message was directed to John Gallien

  19. Yeah, we got a live one. See you on another thread.

  20. Good morning! Hope you and your loved ones are well in every way possible.

    I would normally agree with your premise on free speech in general. Except for situations where there is even a smidgen of a reasonable doubt that death will ensue.

    The Supreme Court ruled righteously in Schenk v. United States that there are times when certain types of speech is prohibited. In said case, that involved screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater and this is considered a criminal action.

    Speech of any sort that could lead to murder (this is almost one hundred percent always hate speech), must be punishable as a hate crime!

    Would you consider innocuous a Muppet Show like Sesame Street, where the characters speak horrifically about Christians and Jews and promote jihad?! Speech like that, which if G-d forbid not stopped and punished as a hate crime, will indubitably and positively lead to not one murder, but many!!! Where would you draw the line?!

    There were people who wrote off Hitler’s diabolically evil speeches and insane rantings. Would and could the average person even begin to comprehend the sheer evil and mass murder of epic proportions in the most gruesome and barbaric ways that was unleashed by his hateful speech, alone?!

    If one does not learn and pay heed very carefully to the lessons of history, G-d forbid, it will enable this very barbarism and butchery to be repeated!!!

  21. Indubitably! I knew that quite well. You don’t really think for even one moment that I expected you to submit a worthy rebuttal?! It’s far easier and typical to simply walk away….

    Have a nice life!! ;)

  22. LOL!

  23. …simply to walk away. (Split infinitive)

  24. You’re confusing inciting to riot, etc., with thinking or saying, for instance, Jews ought to be killed. Thinking it and saying it are not crimes nor ought they be–until one incites others to act, with one leading them.

    IOW: Inciting people to kill Jews is a crime because one is now putting one’s ideas into action.

    As for the heinousness of “hate” crimes being greater than “regular” crimes, which is more heinous, dragging a homosexual behind a car until he’s dead or the crimes of John Wayne Gacy? Frankly, murder is murder, whether of one man or a hundred.

    Finally, whether one’s ideas are anti-Semitic or whether one is simply trying to cause a riot to loot or to rape or to kill, the action is the crime, not the motives. Ask your police friends if they concern themselves with motive–or with evidence–when mounting a case against a perp. Ask them to ask their DA if motive is in any way necessary to gain a conviction.

    RE: morality not being possible without a deity, you may find these of interest:

    “It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole … that above all the unity of a nation’s spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual….”

    “This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture…. The basic attitude from which such activity arises, we call-to distinguish it from egoism and selfishness-idealism. By this we understand only the individual’s capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men” (Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Buckeburg, Germany, Oct. 7, 1933, explaining the moral philosophy of Nazism).

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and
    Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness,
    surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what
    they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s
    truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless
    love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which
    tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the
    scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.
    How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.
    To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize
    more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this
    that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian
    I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the
    duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is
    anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it
    is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also
    a duty to my own people” (Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

    The key to Hitler’s rise to power was his call for self-sacrifice, the very heart of Christian morality. The moral standard of self-sacrifice is the welfare of “Other,” whether State, collective or deity; one is asked to sacrifice one’s Self–one’s mind–to “Other.” In so doing, one sacrifices one’s honesty, integrity, independence, judgment–one’s reasoning mind–to “Other.”

    Once done, a man becomes a zombie to whatever cause–or religion–that requires him to act in unthinking obedience. Look at history for the horrific results of following such a suicide ethics.

    Sacrifice = Death.

    “It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there is service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be master.” – Ayn Rand

    But there is a rational, life affirming ethics:

    “What is morality?…..Judgment to distinguish right and wrong, vision to see the truth, courage to act upon it, dedication to that which is good, integrity to stand by the good at any price.” – Ayn Rand

    “There is a morality of reason, a morality proper to man, and Man’s Life is its standard of value.” – Ayn Rand

    Now, if “hate thoughts” are your concern, consider this:

    “He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world shall keepeth it unto life eternal.”

    Thus, the way to get men to hate life is to teach men a morality that demands they sacrifice all earthly values–beginning with their minds. It’s a simple formula: misery + earth = happiness + Heaven.

    Ask yourself in the solitude of your own mind how such an abomination of morality could possibly lead to anything but death. So if you think hate words “poison society,” perhaps we ought declare such words as those above by Jesus Christ as hateful.

    Be careful what you wish for; if we continue down this road of criminalizing thought and speech, you just may find your Christianity someday declared a hate cult.

  25. Religion isn’t enough
    By: Pelvo White, Jr.
    Marianna, Florida

    Every religion lays its claim to the one sensorial perceived reality — the reality that can be seen, smelled, tasted, touched and heard. They all find believable reasons to proclaim that their god controls everything in their lives. The believer comes to this conclusion not by any contemporary system on rationale, but by virtue of his faith.
    The King James Version of the Holy Bible defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Therefore the hold religions have on humans is a strong one that precedes any influences of science. It is little wonder then that there are more religious folk than scientific ones, because religion was first to define reality for mankind.
    Some parents still tell their children to “sit still while it’s thundering and lightning because God is doing his work.” They do not explain the events of the thunderstorm as processes of planetary hydrology. Instead it is God working his wonders.
    Politicians all over the world are quickly realizing the power religion has over the thoughts and behaviors of their citizens. Citizens of differing countries, heavily influenced by religion, are in the streets killing people and destroying property all the while openly proclaiming that their god is greater than another person’s god.
    None of them are free thinkers because they cannot escape their archaic thoughts dating back to the times of crude drawings on cave walls. How can anyone declare himself a free being when all of his thoughts about his perceived reality are defined through the curtailing strictures of a religion?
    Religions, as life paradigms, find their true purposes only as modes of thought seeking resolution of our fear of the unknown. Religious thoughts help to springboard us toward a greater understanding of the universe, but they are not an end unto themselves because they leave too much about mankind’s connection with the rest of existence unanswered.
    Situating one’s life solely within the confines of any religion hinders our intellectual growth. Being religious may be contemporarily popular for some as a means of seeking and finding answers to questions about the problems plaguing mankind today, but we are not free when we must bow down. We are not free when we must get on our knees.

  26. The christian metaphysical ethics which possibly led to the proper naming of the man now known as Anthony Scaramucci are contradicted by many of the acts of the person himself. These contradictions are all the more interesting when we define this ancient, pagan, Latin name from a classical Latin nominative, first person singular standpoint, and all the more interesting when we take under consideration the political environment within which this name surfaces in world politics. There is nothing more exacting than a proper name. A man is his name. The classical Latin name Antonius Scaramucci is defined; “Antonius “, which is the root word of “Anthony “, means “worthy of praise.”; The word “ Scara “, means; A troop .”; The word” Mucci “; is derived from the root word mucus, “ slippery, slimy substance .” By literal interpretation, the name in its entirety means a man worthy of praise because he is soldierly, dedicated, evasive, or slick man. President Trump’s hiring of such a man is completely in keeping with his attempts at presenting an a-moral man who claims to be a christian, but who curses out loud in public, as virtuous in contemporary America, but whose actions are, at the same time, also compatable to ancient Roman virtu’, which is derived from the Latin word ” virtis ” which describes the qualities desirable for a man. not contemporary American virtues.
    (c) 2017, Pelvo White, Jr.

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